Economic and market outlook

Economic and steel market outlook 2020-2021, first quarter

First quarter 2020 report

econ 2020 1Q

Apparent steel consumption fell by 3.1% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2019, a slight moderation compared to the drop recorded in the second quarter (-6.7%). The ongoing negative trend in steel demand is the result of the continued slump in EU’s manufacturing sector due to weakened exports and investment that has become more pronounced during the second and third quarter of 2019. Leading indicators suggest that the downturn continued in the remainder of 2019, albeit with some signs of stabilisation. No significant rebound is forecast before the second half of 2020.

The current downturn of the manufacturing sector in the EU is not likely to bottom out in the very short-term. Major risk factors are escalating trade wars between the US and several of its main trading partners (mostly China, despite the trade agreement signed on 15 January 2020 that has eased frictions) and persistent uncertainty regarding the final Brexit deal to be agreed by the end of 2020. These factors are set to weigh on trade conditions during 2020, and may even lead to a further deterioration in business sentiment and seriously
hamper investment growth. In this scenario, the EU steel sector would continue to be severely impacted, also having to cope with growing import distortions as well as persistently high import volatility as a result of the increase in the safeguard quotas and transfer mechanism of unused quarterly quota.

Published: 30 January 2020


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